The government of Morocco has announced the formation of a committee to oversee the construction of a port at Dakhla, a city with a population of about 100,000 in the disputed Western Sahara.
The committee, which was organised by the Ministry of Equipment, is expected to launch tenders for the project before the end of the year. The government has set a seven-year deadline for the completion of the port and a budget of $1bn.
The project is part of the country’s 2030 National Ports Strategy, which envisages the construction of six ports in Morocco’s southern regions.
In his speech announcing the plan in November 2015, King Mohammed VI said the aim was to integrate the provinces into a "unified homeland" and to "enhance the influence of the Sahara region as an economic hub and a crucial link between Morocco and its African roots".
As well as ports, the development model includes airports and a railway between Tangier and Lagouira, the southernmost point in the Western Sahara. The projects aim to support the social economy and to create job opportunities.
Morocco has control of most of the territory in the Western Sahara, including all the major cities and natural resources. However, the UN considers the Polisario Front to be the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people, and maintains that the Sahrawis have a right to self-determination.
A Moroccan diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Morocco World News that "this investment and the more than $7bn that Morocco has pledged to invest in the region since 2015 are a rebuttal to Polisario’s claims that Morocco has been exploiting the natural resourcesof Western Sahara".
Image: Dakhla, in the Western Sahara (Ecemaml/CC BY 2.0)